Swiss Study Finds Significantly Lower Seroprevalence in General Public & Lower Seroprevalence in Children; US Chamber Of Commerce Supports Transparency In COVID-19 Vaccine Development
Restaurants, bars and shopping centers reopen in Geneva, Switzerland

Preliminary results from a Swiss study found that the prevalence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in children ages 5 to 9 years old is 68% lower than the seroprevalence in adults aged 20 to 49 years old. 

The study, titled SEROCoV-POP, reported seroprevalence results from almost 2800 participants followed from April 6 to May 9, the first five weeks of a 12 week followup period. A previous paper posted in the preprint server MedRxiv, which analyzed data from the first three weeks of the study period, found that there was no significant difference in the seroprevalence in children compared to adults. Both studies found that older adults had a lower seroprevalence.

The most recent analysis found only about 11% of the Swiss population has antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, slightly higher than the 9.7% seroprevalence estimated in the previous paper.

“Our results highlight that as the end of the epidemic curve in Geneva approaches, the immunological landscape has not substantially changed since before the pandemic, with most people having no evidence of past infection,” wrote the authors, representing Geneva University Hospitals and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

They also noted that the Geneva study represents one of the most high quality, representative seroprevalence studies to date. Existing sero-surveys from the USA, Brazil or Denmark don’t ‘accurately reflect’ the true proportion of the population with antibodies, because study participants were likely to be healthier than the average person, or were recruited from less affected areas.

The serosurvey results come as a Lancet Correspondence from Thursday claims that there is “little evidence” to support herd immunity – A controversial theory that assumes exposing an entire population to a disease will eventually lead most to develop immunity. Experts from the World Health Organization have repeatedly cautioned against assuming that herd immunity will protect against further waves of the virus. 

The cumulative mortality rate per capital has plateaued at different levels in different countries, and countries that went into lockdown early experienced fewer deaths, indicating that public health measures, and not herd immunity, were responsible for reductions in mortality.

“Under herd immunity, the cumulative mortality rate due to COVID-19 per million of the population would be expected to plateau at roughly the same level in different countries (assuming similar basic reproduction numbers). This is not what the data show,” the authors of the Commentary wrote. 

The Lancet Correspondence, which was submitted by the UK’s MRC Centre, Imperial College London and Oxford University, analysed cumulative per-capita COVID-19 mortality data from a number of countries, as well as seroprevalence studies.

US Chamber Of Commerce Spokesperson Supports Transparency Around COVID-19 Vaccine
Spike glycoproteins decorating SARS-CoV-2’s membrane surface; highlighted in red is a potential neutralization site, which is a protein sequence that might be used as a target for vaccines.

A spokesperson for the United States Chamber of Commerce, the largest trade lobbying group in the country, has supported increased transparency for a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Independent. 

However, finer details of the Chamber’s endorsement is still unclear, and does not extend to supporting voiding of intellectual property and patent rights. 

“The short answer is yes [more transparency is needed]. But we don’t have a clear-cut US Chamber position on that,” Patrick Kilbride, a senior vice president of the US Chamber’s Global Innovation Policy Centre (GIPC), told The Independent. 

The US Chamber’s tepid support comes amidst repeated calls from global leaders, including France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, for any COVID-19 vaccine developed to be a ‘global public good.’ 

AstraZeneca, along with Johnson & Johnson and Glaxosmithkline (GSK) announced In late May that they were taking a ‘not-for-profit’ approach for vaccine development. But access advocates have argued that further transparency and disclosure around costs of production are needed in order to ensure true ‘no-profit’ prices.

“This is a unique situation and I feel comfortable saying that a higher level of transparency is warranted, especially given the unusual public sector contribution to some of the efforts that are ongoing,” said Kilbride.

“There’s this enormous and unprecedented mobilisation of R& D by business, and to a certain extent added to by government and various other non-governmental organisations,” Robert Grant, director of international policy at the GIPC. “It really is a considerable collective effort that is typically much less common in non-crisis times.”

For example, Pfizer, which announced in late May they were moving towards Phase 3 clinical trials in July, has received funding from the United States Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority department for clinical trials. AstraZeneca is closely working with Oxford University on their vaccine candidate. 

See the full story on The Independent.

Image Credits: S. Lustig Vijay/HP-Watch, National Institutes of Health/David Veesler, University of Washington.